Thursday, May 13, 2010

feed your head

So, I was on vacation last week in Maryland, and I am heading to Chicago next week for a long weekend. Although I kind of hate that my kids live so far away, I am glad that they don't live in, I don't know, Houston and Tallahassee, for example.

Julie lives just north of Baltimore, and she and Andrew explore the city every weekend. Every time I am there, they have new areas and neighborhoods for me to visit. We also drove to College Park and took the Metro down to D.C. We spent an entire day in the museums along the National Mall. It really is a national treasure to have so much free and available to us. I can't describe how invigorating it is to wander from gallery to gallery, drinking in the works of so much genius and creativity.

That is, of course, what one expects to find in museums of this caliber. The real surprise came the following day when Julie and I visited the American Visionary Art Museum. ( I saw the building on my last trip to Baltimore, and thought it looked intriguing. Julie and Andrew had never been there, so we made it part of our itinerary for this year. We had no idea what to expect when we got there, and honestly, words fail me when I try to describe what we saw. The works on exhibit are those of untrained and unknown artists. Many of them spent time in and out of mental hospitals. They could not hold down steady jobs. Most of these people did not think of themselves as artists. They were simply compelled to create what they did. It is an absolutely fascinating glimpse into the workings of the human mind.

The one idea I took away from AVAM, as it is called, is the absolute knowledge that humans must express themselves. And, by and large, we will use whatever materials we find at hand to help make sense of the world as we see it. I don't know where to begin to describe it all. There were things like the huge model of the Lusitania made from toothpicks, of course, but much more interesting were the more non-traditional works. The hundreds of hand-lettered signs made over a period of years that express one man's frustration and isolation. The notebooks full of collages made of pictures cut from magazines and catalogs, interspersed with hand-drawn images and captions that form a shut-in woman's entire world. The entire elaborate country created by a lonely boy where the man he grew into preferred to spend his life. I could go on and on. Check out their website to learn more.

I love to eat Maryland crab cakes by the Chesapeake Bay, as we did the night I arrived, but I am equally thrilled to fill my brain with new concepts and ideas. Now that's a trip.


Ben said...

Great post, seriously. And I couldn't agree more that it's important to feed your head. I'm looking forward to my trips to MD and Chicago!

anne mancine said...

Thanks, Ben!

And, yes, Jules, that is a song lyric. Look it up.